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No. 5 Economic relations and trade - Mapping Central Asia’s relations with other Asian states
Largely under-reported, India, Japan, Iran, Turkey and South Korea represent important trading and investment partners for the Central Asian countries. In the wake of independence, all five Central Asian powers signed a range of different agreements with the five Asian powers – though the depth of these agreements varies substantially.
Bilateral trade between the five Central Asian countries and the other Asian countries is broadly in favour of the non-Central Asian ones, though a considerable spike in individual bilateral trade is observed due to hydrocarbons. Of the countries in question, Turkey’s relationship is likely the most balanced in trade terms.
There is some direct investment from the countries into Central Asia, with South Korean and Japa-nese projects, in particular, being focused on aid opportunities. Turkish companies focus on con-struction and all seek some access and stake in the energy sector. A number of prestige projects have been undertaken by these powers in the region, largely as conduits to improve relations rather than driven by any practical economic benefit.
The impact of sanctions on Iran can be felt across the region with both direct relations with Iran being largely stunted, and the broader potential for Iran to provide an access way for Central Asian prod-ucts to reach the international market remaining under-developed.
There is some labour migration to the countries in question, with some Uzbekistani migrants going to South Korea, and labour migrants from across the region going to Turkey, South Korea, Japan, and India have all articulated major cross-regional connectivity visions. In 1985 Iran, Turkey and Pakistan founded the Economic Cooperation Organization (ECO) that now includes the entire re-gion, is headquartered in Tehran, but has done very little in its lifespan.